Buying a computer can be a stressful purchase. Words like central processing unit, modem, and hard drive can give consumers a GHz sized headache. Most buyers become overwhelmed with all the options available for computer hardware and tend to buy the least expensive bargain computer. While price is important, there are other factors that consumers should consider carefully during their hunt for which computer is best suited to their needs. With a little research consumers can enter their local electronics store with a confidence that comes from knowledge. The process of second-guessing your choices can be eliminated. Make a list of what your requirements are and then leave the safety of your home to enter the wild world of computer buying.
Which Computer is Right for You?
This is the first question you should ask yourself. Make a list of what needs will have to be fulfilled by this computer. This is the part where you must ask yourself what will I be using this computer to accomplish? What you will be using your computer for will contribute heavily to what hardware you choose for your computer as well as the price. Most consumers are using their personal computers for Internet access, letter writing, and photo publishing. Consumers with children may include essay writing in this list of uses. For those of you with higher demands that include being able to run different programs, you will require a more specialized computer. When taking into account what the intended purpose of the computer is, you should consider the need for speed, memory, hard drives, monitors, keyboards, and the mouse. Combined, all these components add up to a computer that will most suit your needs.
No, I am not referring to the run away hit movie starring Keneau Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Speed is the amount of time it takes your computer to perform certain operations. The Central Processing Unit, which will from here on be referred to as the CPU, is the center of your computer, the main brain. The CPU is one of the largest controlling factors of speed in your computer. Equally important, the CPU controls what capabilities or functions your computer will have. Now, lets introduce some terms we have all heard of. Modern computers will have CPU’s like Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron. I mention these first because they are most likely the ones you have heard of. These CPU’s will come in different speed as well as types. Current updated computers will have one of the following CPU’s:
ï¿½ Intel Pentium III
ï¿½ Intel Pentium IV
ï¿½ AMD Athlon XP
ï¿½ Athlon CPUs
ï¿½ Celeron CPUs
Speed in these CPUs can range from 1.6 GHz to 3.2GHz. The higher the GHz, the higher the speed at which your CPU will function. Clearly you should expect to may more money for more GHz.
Memory is one of the most important components of your computer. If you are purchasing a new computer you should look for one with a minimum of 128 MB of memory. Ideally you should look for 256 MB. Most of us have been at the computer repair store and had the sales clerk try to sell us more memory. Before I understood its function in the computer I was always a little wary that I was secretly being ripped off from my hard earned cash. Ignorance breeds mistrust and I now realize how important that memory is to the speed, performance, and durability of my computer. System memory is referred to as RAM, one of those instances of language barrier between the knowledgeable computer sales clerk and the novice consumer. When you install a new program into your computer you are loading it from the hard disk into your computer’s memory. If your computer does not have enough memory, your computer will be forced to use the hard disk as additional memory. This will cause performance problems in your computer because the hard disk uses mechanical parts. These mechanical parts will begin to degrade and slow the performance operation of your computer. Basically, more memory saves wear and tear on computer parts. And, as every good computer sales clerk will tell you, memory is cheap. An upgrade in memory can cost as little as $30 depending upon how much more you are buying. Increased memory will equal increased speed and increased durability in the life of your computer.
Hard Disk Drives
When choosing a hard disk drive you should consider two factors, speed and size. Accessing data store on the hard drive is a contributor to the speed at which your computer performs. The faster data is retrieved from you hard drive the faster it will appear on you screen. Seek time is the term your sales clerk will throw at you here. Of course you want a faster seek time! Hard drives are also relatively inexpensive and your money will go along way towards the speed at which your computer operates in this category. All these hardware categories work together. If you have a fast CPU, but a slow hard drive, you will have a slow computer. A hard drive with 40 to 200 GB and a transfer rate of 7 to 9 ms will serve most consumers well, plus just saying that to your sales clerk will let them know you are not to be fooled around with!
Now, most of us may consider the monitor merely be something that comes in the computer package we have chosen. A mere afterthought after focusing all of our attention on the performance of the computer. Those of us who are not so knowledgeable anyway. Most consumes want a flat screen monitor for their computer. I have seen many consumers jump at a bargain computer merely because it came with a free upgrade to a flat screen monitor. This is not necessarily the wisest approach to purchasing the home computer most suited to your needs. Important factors to consider while choosing a monitor include:
ï¿½ Viewable Image
ï¿½ Maximum Resolution
ï¿½ Refresh Rate
ï¿½ Dot Pitch
Yes, I included size. Size does matter. No one enjoys squinting at a tiny screen when you could be leaning back and enjoying a larger screen. Most computer packages come with at least a 17 inch monitor these days, but it is not unusual to find a 19″ monitor slipped in there. You should subtract about one inch off of the total advertised monitor size and you will have the actual amount of viewing room your monitor really provides. Dot pitch may be something most consumers have never heard of. Dot pitch affects the resolution, or clarity, of your screen. Smaller dot pitches equal a crisper image. Most computer connoisseurs will recommend a dot pitch of 0.26 or less. If you have an elderly family member with bifocals or cataracts who will also be using the computer this can be an important feature in the search for the best monitor for your needs. Refresh rate is also an often over looked feature of a computer monitor. This is the speed at which the image takes to appear on the screen. A refresh rate of 76 HZ or more will result in a steadier image on your monitor.
Key Boards and Mice
Most consumers may be satisfied with a keyboard and mouse as long as they work and match the computer, and that is fine. But you should consider some of the newer options that are available in the computer market today, modern conveniences being what they are. Cordless keyboards and mice allow the consumer to reduce the number of cords cluttering up their work surface and provide a freedom of mobility that conventional keyboards do not. Optical mice work without the roller ball found in traditional mice. This eliminates the need for a mouse pad, yet another item that serves to clutter up the work surface, and the cleaning that came with the maintenance of the roller ball mouse. Mostly, though, the choice for the perfect keyboard and mouse is one of personal taste. Finding a keyboard with keys that click just the way you like them can be one of the more pleasurable overlooked luxuries in life.
Support Services for Computer Problems
Now, this last important factor to consider in the hunt for you home computer does not come inside the box with your computer. You will not find it in the hard drive and most certainly not in the memory. Most likely you will find support services at the end of a 1-800 number you dial while your teenage child is crying that their term paper has been lost forever. The best time to consider problem support is before you buy your computer, not while blood is leaking from your ears as your child’s wailing grows to a fever pitch. A quick search online can lead to numerous horror stories and testimonials of lack luster technical support that left customers on phone calls that lasted hours and left them talking to clearly foreign customer service agents who are all amazingly named Bob, Tom, or Jenny. Check with friends and family members. Ask them if they have had any favorable experiences dealing with support services from their computer manufacturing companies. If you have an IT guy or girl at work, hit them up for this kind of info. Acknowledging their expertise will make them feel appreciated and needed and you will gain some very useful information that can help you buy the computer that is right for you.